Changing My Religion

It’s time to take a leap of faith and try something new.


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In his book Outliers, the author Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to master a given skill, which I question. I’ve been a Quaker for nearly half a million hours and am no better at it than when I started. Hardly a day passes that I don’t buy something I don’t need, and at least once a week I want to conk someone on the noggin. Simplicity and peace are only two of our customs, we have three more — integrity, community, and equality — and I’m a flop at those too.

It troubles me that after doing something for 47 years, I’m no better at it than when I started. My mistake was embracing a religion with high ideals. If I had joined a religion that emphasized motorcycle riding, fried chicken, and taking naps, I’d be celebrated far and wide as a perfect saint. My followers would write books about me and hang on my every utterance. They would throw rose petals on my path and beg for my blessing. But no, I had to join a religion with ethical standards, and now I’ve let everyone down.

I picked my religion in a moment of weakness, smitten with a Quaker girl, who later spurned my advances and married a Methodist, teaching me a valuable lesson — that Methodists are sneaky and always end up with the girl. I paid the Methodists back by stealing away one of their own, slipping a ring on her finger, and convincing her to become a Quaker. Now she’s a better Quaker than I am, which isn’t hard, given my shortcomings, chief among them my tendency to make significant decisions for the shallowest of reasons.

Since I’ve spent most of my life as a Quaker, I’ve been thinking it might be time to try something new with the time I have left. This time, I won’t make the mistake of picking something alien to my natural inclinations. Plus, I haven’t been all that good about saving for retirement, so I need a religion that won’t cost me anything, which is why I’ve decided to become a Druid, who reveres nature, and worship trees.

My devotion to trees began when I was a kid, and my father hung a porch swing from the maple tree in our front yard. I would sit underneath its dense canopy, shaded from the summer sun and the occasional shower. I spent many contented hours under that maple, never realizing there was a religion dedicated to trees. Had I known, I would have joined it and saved myself, and Quakerism, a lot of heartache.

The nice thing about being a Druid is that I don’t have to confine my affections to just one tree. Maples, oaks, pines, poplars, I can love them all. There is not a jealous limb among them. Ten years ago, I dug up an oak tree in our woods and planted it in our yard. It has since grown tenfold, is beautifully formed, and now casts enough shade to cover the Adirondack chair I’ve placed beside it. I rest there easily, knowing the pines, dogwoods, and maples in my yard neither envy the oak nor demand my unalloyed affection. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the followers of Yahweh might have loathed the worshippers of Baal, but in my yard the trees sway in happy unison, each one grateful for the other.

Now scientists tell us that trees can communicate with one another. Every summer, I suspect the trees in my yard talk among themselves, wondering when I’m going to haul my butt out of my Adirondack chair and mow the lawn.


Philip Gulley is a Quaker pastor and author of 22 books, including the Harmony and Hope series, featuring Sam Gardner.

This article is featured in the November/December 2023 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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  1. I don’t know any subject that can start an argument quicker than religion. Unless maybe politics. We process information differently resulting in differing beliefs and convictions. Humor helps us keep our balance if we will allow it to do so. It sure makes navigating in the world easier if we accept that we have our differences in all things and don’t try and force our way of thinking and acting on others.

  2. First of all, the true religion or belief is found in the Scriptures, not in the added false doctrines and rites adopted from the pagan nations around the original writers of the Bible. False doctrines like ‘hell-fire’ the Trinity and ‘all good people going to heaven’, and the immortality of the human soul’ are not taught in the Bible. God’s original purpose for creating Adam and Eve was for them to live forever on this beautiful earth- especially designed for humans- and to bring forth the rest of the human race. Because they sinned and passed that on to us, Jesus came to redeem or ransom us and eventually free us from this imperfection. We were all taught to say the ‘Lord’s prayer’ and in it Jesus told us to pray for God’s Kingdom. This is a heavenly government that will soon take over the rulership of this earth and bring back those paradise conditions Adam and Eve lost for us in the beginning. This will mean the end of sickness, war, pain and eveen death- see Revelation chapter 21, verses 3-5. This is the theme of the whole Bible.

  3. I believe many of you are reading more into this than is intended. I enjoy reading Mr. Gulley’s articles for their humor and look forward to them. Lighten up,folks!

  4. It’s really confusing for me is which one of the 45,000 denominations of Christianity worships the True God? I suspect if you choose the wrong one, say number 6,414, you will end up in hell. Of course, if you start at number 1 and plod through them all you will have to give up mowing the lawn, taking out the garbage, washing the dishes, etc. I guess that wouldn’t be such a bad life as long as your heathen neighbors don’t mind.

  5. Well my goodness! Are y’all listening to yourselves? Some of you self-identified Christians are doing all sorts of unChristian things – criticizing, judging, being uppity, being thankful that you’re better than Brother Gulley, being terribly intolerant, and more. But, bless your little hearts, there’s still hope for you. Just go to a quiet place, get on your knees, and ask for forgiveness. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure God’s gonna get you for several of your transgressions. And Brother Ron, I hope this isn’t tacky, but I think you meant “indicted,” not “indited”. But far be it from me to cast the first stone.

  6. You indited yourself in the first few sentences of your narrative. You said that you have been a Quaker for over a half million hours. And you are no better at it now than when you began. That’s just sad. I noticed that some respondents get religion confused with denomination. But, that is a discussion for another time. If you being in a Christian religion feel that you are no better at it than you were several years ago, it’s not the religion that is wrong but probably the person. We are not expected to be babies our entire life but to grow into a viable adult. The same as being a Christian. Paul even said that some had to be fed milk because they hadn’t matured enough to eat meat. So, if you are at this place, don’t quit being a Christian. Look for a Bible teaching church that will help you to mature as a Christian. Let me tell you that having a DD or LDD behind you name isn’t necessarily going to get you into heaven.

  7. Yes, Philip, don’t forget about Jesus – Christianity is more than ethics and customs.

  8. Only good, deeds and acts of kindness come from the Holy Spirit,but faith in Jesus Christ will save you.

  9. The major problem with almost any form of Christianity, or the 2nd/3rd manifestations of Abrahamic faith, is of course their track record for the past 1500-2000 years. There are good reasons for “apologetics” as an entire field of religious studies. Because of their track record, the 2nd & 3rd Abrahamic faiths have little credibility or moral authority…. Euphemistically-speaking.

  10. All you have to know is that Jesus died for our sins and on the third day rose and walked among his people for forty days. Everything else before and after just falls into place.

  11. I am a Messianic believer and believe YHWH and Yeshuah are the correct names. Where did you learn that?

  12. Perhaps being a Quaker. or a Druid doesn’t really matter, call yourself anything you choose.
    But the only choice that really matters, now and for Eternity, is accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior!

    And it really is your choice, Heaven or Hell, believe it or not!


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